THE MINUTEMEN OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION WERE ESSENTIALLY A RAPID RESPONSE FORCE AND COULD BE READY AT A MOMENT’S NOTICE, HENCE THEIR TIME-SENSITIVE NAME.
Almost 240 years later the nation is very different. Commerce, technology and communication have all changed. Now, we face different issues and threats but the vast majority of the population has become reliant on others to provide for their security. As history has shown us, sometimes waiting for the government means risking misery or even death. Where has our self-reliant character gone and how can we get it back? Here’s our guide to get you started.
THE MINUTEMAN PACK
The minutemen needed to grab their gear and go as expediently as possible. They did not have the luxury of packing everything they wanted, and their gear needed to be general purpose. Today, when most trips are in the planning stage, an empty pack is filled with the gear needed on a tripby- trip basis. The pack is loaded before and unloaded after each trip. There may be days, weeks or months in between trips when we will need to repack our gear, but what if we plan on keeping our packs loaded at all times?
What is the benefit of always being ready to pick up and leave? We can have recreational outings that double as emergency training.
Many readers likely have a small personal survival kit. Fewer may have a small bottle, canteen kit or maybe a belt pouch with contents that rarely vary. This kit is the one grabbed for informal jaunts into the outdoors and it extends survivability beyond pocket carried gear. The items selected for this Every Day Carry (EDC) load out should be based on realistic needs. For an EDC kit, these are needs that might arise any day.
“AS HISTORY HAS SHOWN US, SOMETIMES WAITING FOR THE GOVERNMENT MEANS RISKING MISERY OR EVEN DEATH.”
The philosophy of keeping gear loaded should apply to all kits including the more extensive backpack. We would never think of packing a pocket emergency or pocket survival kit daily, why not treat our larger packs a similar way? Some aspects of the minuteman pack are meant for year-round use and others are season-specific. Items meant to remain in the pack year-round can be identified with unique tape or paracord marking. These include camp support gear like a hatchet, saw, E-tool, sleeping provisions like a camp pad, tarp and bivy sack, cooking gear including a stove, pot, basic mess kit and rain gear that is a must yearround. Seasonal equipment is swapped out to address the environment.
During winter seasons, the level of insulation from the cold will augment the clothes carried as well as the rating of your sleeping bag. Depending where you are traveling, you may also find the need to add extra environmental protection like bug dope, sunscreen and mosquito netting. The idea behind pack readiness is to never establish the concept of being done. The minuteman pack is always a work in progress and if you are carrying everything when out of season, you are carrying excess. What is the value of a bag ready for 20 degrees below zero in the middle of the summer when a bag good for 20 degrees above zero is already warm enough?
HOW TO PACK?
Your pack should be loaded to address priority of needs. You should have a trauma kit to address accidents if you are carrying an axe, firearm or any tool that can cause injury. This should be accessible with one hand with the fewest number of deliberate movements as possible. This means it should be packed toward the top of the pack or where it can be reached on the exterior rapidly. Rapid warming items like fire starters should be packed accordingly too.
On the other end of the urgency spectrum, your sleeping bag should be placed at the bottom of your pack since rushing to reach it while setting up camp is unlikely. Similarly, boiling water and preparing food is rarely rushed and these items can be placed centrally in the pack. Base how you carry your gear around urgency. The process of assembling this pack is never ending and the pack can always get better with further refinement. Better gear can be acquired and, as skills improve, less will be carried. Rather than focusing on the weight initially, as so many backpacking manuals obsess over, address needs first then consider weight. Focusing on the weight rather than the needs it should address can result in failure. Satisfy the basic needs of the camp, then cut weight.
WHAT TO WEAR
Obviously, you don’t need to sleep in your clothes and boots to be completely ready at a moment’s notice, but how long would it take you to be completely prepared and get out of the door on a random Tuesday at 3 a.m.? If there has been an earthquake or a tornado is bearing down on your house 15 minutes is a long time. Having your minuteman clothes near your bed or in an empty nightstand drawer will create a specific place near you to keep your clothes. They can be accessed in seconds upon waking up and you can be fully dressed steps from your bed.
Consider a pair of sturdy cargo-style pants with multiple pockets, two layers of shirts, a light rain-proof jacket, socks and rugged boots. Going the extra mile in preparedness, having your pockets filled with general gear you feel you might need — knife, flashlight, first-aid kit, extra car keys — will greatly reduce your lag time and increase your efficiency.
SAFETY IN NUMBERS
The Modern Minuteman Challenge (see sidebar) is not about perfection but it does help the preparedness-minded individual realize his or her potential. Through impromptu training like this, other realities become apparent. While survival is possible in the short term, survival long term is more comfortable and easier when a group is involved. Heavier camp gear can be broken down and parceled out to members of a party to lighten the load an individual would otherwise have to carry. Group dynamics are refined through training and analyzing actions together. Each member gets stronger and the group grows stronger as a whole.
Much like the American Revolution, the need to be Minuteman Ready is inevitable. Civil unrest as in the aftermath of events in Ferguson and Baltimore demonstrate the need for mobility. Natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy also point to the importance of bugging out if time allows.
“CIVIL UNREST AS IN THE AFTERMATH OF EVENTS IN FERGUSON AND BALTIMORE DEMONSTRATE THE NEED FOR MOBILITY.”
A person’s strongest prep is generally at home considering how much time is spent there and considering it is usually the location of all the equipment owned. The home is not always safe though, and in some circumstances, the need may arise to be somewhere else with all due urgency. As current events have exposed our weaknesses as a culture, our preparation and training can demonstrate our strengths. Practice Modern Minuteman Training because you never know when you’ll need to be up and out of the house.
The Minuteman Challenge
I created The Minuteman Challenge last year. It starts off with stating the purpose of training. The current state of affairs in America may mean civil unrest, natural disaster or, worst case scenario, a large-scale terrorist attack. The minuteman challenge better prepares participants to respond quicker and be better prepared with a kit to handle most needs. From here, participants share the contents of their kits with one another through e-mail, social media or in person. A date is established and participants each pick locations where the campout could be held. A person is selected to pick the location and keep it secret until 24 hours prior to the weekend. Participants must not change the contents of their pack and use it as is. Once the campout is over, a group “after action report” (AAR) is done and in this debrief the group explains what worked, what didn’t and what they want to add to make their pack better. The process is repeated over more trials until the contents of the pack are to the liking of the individual. This challenge can be done repeatedly over the course of a year in various seasons.
Building The Perfect Pack
»WHEN YOU PUT YOUR PACK TOGETHER YOU NEED TO KEEP IN MIND THAT YOU WILL BE CARRYING THIS THING. EXTRA ITEMS THAT ARE NOT NEEDED ADD WEIGHT SO THEY SHOULD BE LEFT AT HOME.
Humans can survive for days without food, so this is not the top priority, but it is always smart to include food in your pack (remember, we’re planning for the unknown). Open any outdoor magazine and you will see pages of ads showing “survival food.” This food is for the long-term disasters, and it has its place but that place is not in your survival pack. Look for packages of dry soup, dried fruit, and nuts. All of these items will keep you alive. Stay away from food with high salt content. Salt will dehydrate you, thus making you need more water, which may or may not be in short supply. With a little careful planning your pack will have the appropriate food that will keep you alive at a fraction of the cost and space.
People never drink enough water. Carrying water with you wherever you venture is extremely important. Dehydration will kill you and put those around you in danger. Whenever I go out, I always carry a minimum of two quarts of water in aluminum water bottles. I do not use plastic water bottles and I do not buy water at the store for this purpose. An aluminum water bottle allows you to boil questionable water before drinking. I also carry a small bottle of water purification tablets I use to treat water, especially if I do not have a means to boil.
Fire allows you to boil water and cook food. Fire will help keep you warm and will make you visible to those people searching for you. Fire will also calm you down in what could be a serious situation. We all need to carry multiple ways to start a fire. In my pack I carry wooden kitchen matches, butane lighters, regular paper matches and a friction fire starter. These items are all cheap to obtain and they beat rubbing two sticks together. The one thing I do not do is keep them all together. I usually carry one butane lighter in my pocket, one in my pack and another one in my first-aid kit. This is just in case I get separated from my pack, or if one fails there are always others. Both the kitchen and paper matches are put in resealable plastic sandwich bags and put in the pack. To get a fire going I carry cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly and store them in plastic pill bottles. I also carry a product called “Firestarters” put out by Lightning Nugget. These small blocks of paraffin and sawdust will light even the wettest wood and will burn for a minimum of 15 minutes.
I always carry cordage of some sort in my pack along with a heavy bladed knife and/or a small hatchet. The knife or hatchet can be used to chop the wood you will need to build the shelter (and for chopping firewood) and the cordage will be used to lash it all together. Your cordage can be paracord or you can do like I do and carry a clothesline, which I bought at a bargain store. I also carry extra bootlaces and a small spool of fishing line, both of which can be used in a pinch.
Items I carry a large sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil. The foil, which folds up nicely and weighs almost nothing, can be used both as a way to signal for help (reflective mirror) and can be made into a bowl in which to boil water and to cook food. I carry a whistle which will allow me to signal people searching for me. I carry a first-aid/survival kit, insect repellent, and a roll of duct tape.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the August 2015 print issue of American Survival Guide.